UK to trigger Brexit in historic week for EU

Bright future? Polls show that support for the EU has risen in Europe since the Brexit vote.

On Wednesday Britain will formally begin its departure from the European Union — a 60-year project of co-operation that many now believe is in danger of falling apart. How has the EU done?

Rome, March 25th 1957. In an austere Europe still recovering from two apocalyptic wars, the leaders of six Western European countries met in the Italian capital.

They brought about the European Economic Community, later renamed the European Union.

Sixty years on from the Treaty of Rome, the EU is set to lose a key member — the United Kingdom.

The remaining 27 members are asking where it went wrong.

The EU was founded in reaction to the nationalism which created the conflict in the first half of the 20th century. Its principles of free movement aim to encourage co-operation.

Since its creation, no EU nation has ever gone to war with another.

At first, it was seen as a largely economic entity. But since the 1992 Maastricht Treaty it has adopted the trappings of nationhood: a flag, an anthem and a common foreign policy.

One of the EU’s most important projects was the euro — the single currency was introduced in 2002. The euro has made it easier to purchase things across borders, but has resulted in far greater economic centralisation. Since 2008, it has been clear to many that countries as different as Greece and Germany cannot use the same currency.

Has the EU in its 60 years done more good than harm?

School report

The EU has been a disaster, say some. It is an undemocratic empire. Far from subduing nationalism, it has fed the success of sinister far-right movements across Europe. It has botched the euro zone crisis and the migration crisis. Brexit is the beginning of the end. Four out of ten.

Hold on, reply others. The EU may not be perfect, but it brought together bitter enemies and enabled an era of liberal, tolerant prosperity for millions. Brexit must not be allowed to derail this amazing achievement. In fact one day the UK may beg to be let back in. Eight out of ten.

You Decide

  1. Has the EU been a force for good or for ill?


  1. Write a longer version of the above report card for the European Union.

Some People Say...

“If Europe were united, there would be no limit to the glory which its people would enjoy.”

Winston Churchill

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
That the Treaty of Rome was signed 60 years ago on Saturday. From six original members, there are now 28 states (including the UK) in the European Union. We know that Brexit has prompted many in Europe to reflect on the progress of the EU.

Word Watch

Six Western European countries
France, Italy, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands
When the euro notes and coins were introduced to the original members. The euro had been introduced to world financial markets in 1999 as an accounting currency. It is now used by 337 million Europeans in 19 member states.
Far-right movements
In France, the National Front looks set to do well in the presidential election. In Greece, Hungary and Bulgaria, violent far-right movements are increasingly popular.

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.